Historic legislation passed in Queensland Parliament today will enable legal recognition of Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practices.
Torres Strait Islander and Member for Cook, Cynthia Lui said the Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Act 2020 is a huge step forward.
“For generations, Torres Strait Islanders have supported their children and each other in loving, supportive extended families.
“Until now, these family relationships have never been fully recognised in law. This Act means children and adults who’ve grown up with traditional adoptive parents will finally have their legal identity match their cultural identity.
“This supports and strengthens people’s connection to community and culture,” Ms Lui said.
Kupai Omasker Working Group Chair and the first Torres Strait Islander social worker, Aunty Ivy Trevallion, said the legislation will address historic and lifelong issues raised in community consultation.
“We trust this legislation will help remove identification barriers for participation in important areas such as education, health, housing and finance to ensure our young people raised through traditional child rearing practices don’t get left out,” Aunty Ivy said
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Bill would never have passed without Ms Lui’s hard work.
“As the first Torres Strait Islander elected to Queensland Parliament, Ms Lui has led this very important and proud day for the people of the Torres Strait,” the Premier said.
“Torres Strait Islander leadership has been advocating to have this cultural practice legally recognised for more than 30 years – aiming to bridge the gap between traditional lore and western law for caregivers and children from extended Torres Strait Islander families.
Cynthia Lui said the Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa Act 2020, has been a long time coming.
“Legally recognising Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice and acknowledging the strength of this enduring culture is a historic milestone in the Queensland Government’s journey to reframe its relationship with First Nations peoples,” Ms Lui said.
“It enables people to apply for a birth certificate that reflects their lived identity, and opens easy access to government services such as financial support and school enrolment.”
Minister for Fire and Emergency Services and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Craig Crawford said Queensland was leading the nation with the first legislation of this kind in Australia.
“The Palaszczuk Government has partnered with Torres Strait Islander communities to deliver on its election commitment supported by a $1 million investment delivered over three years to support this historic outcome.
“It’s important that our contemporary legal system evolves to recognise, accommodate and celebrate the diversity of Queensland families” Mr Crawford said.
Torres Strait Ministerial Champion Shannon Fentiman met with families across the Torres Strait hearing from them directly about the importance of this legislation.
“This legislation will ensure Torres Strait Islander children and adults can have their legal identity match their cultural identity,” Ms Fentiman said.
“This will mean they’ll be able to have and do things that most of us take for granted, such as having a passport in their own name or being able to obtain a drivers licence.”
Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said cultural background and identity were integral to the wellbeing of children.
“The translation of Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa is ‘for our children’s children’, but today it means so much more as we acknowledge the enduring culture that unites Torres Strait Islander families and communities,” Ms Farmer said.
The Palaszczuk Government partnered with Torres Strait Islander communities to deliver the Act, which was developed with guidance from three appointed Eminent Persons — Ms Ivy Trevallion, Mr Charles Passi and the Honourable Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC.